Friday, February 29, 2008
While pondering on a topic to write about, I thought about my music and arts interests and what might be of interest to Graham’s readers…
Then it hit me: write about the combination of music and movies, two of my favorite topics. I began to think about the array of artists who perform at The Barns every week and how they might connect to the movies I watch and love. Now, I consider myself quite the movie buff, but could I have previously named who sang the theme from The Poseidon Adventure? Definitely not.
Connecting artists to movies is a new section of trivia that has piqued my interest, especially with the consideration that movies and performing/recording artists are in a symbiotic relationship of mutualism; each furthering the other's career.It comes as no surprise that movies and music are inextricably related to one another; movies would in theory lose meaning without the addition of the tunes that make them what they are. Think back: you knew the man-eating great-white in Jaws was approaching because of the daunting beat that he apparently swam around with. We all knew offers were made that could not be refused in The Godfather when the soft yet eerie instrumental began to play. How could we forget the Norman Bates slasher song from Psycho? Since the art of motion picture began music has warned, warmed, and whisked us away. Music, of course, stands on its own as well. Whether it is radio, CDs, records, or live concerts, music is a part of the lives of millions of people everyday. Along with countless other reasons music is played to console, to cheer, and to complete any mood. Celebrated are the scores that have been created (think John Williams and Star Wars); but what about the individual artists who contribute to the music that sets the tone for the silver screen classics? Rarely do we connect the two; artist to movie, movie to artist. I decided to take a mini-tour on the artists who have visited/will be visiting The Barns at Wolf Trap this year… and discuss their contributions to some Hollywood favorites.
Let us begin with Edwin McCain and his knack for writing catchy ballads. Hitting it big with the Top 10 recording "I'll Be," McCain quickly earned his place as a romantic rocker. His next album provided another popular love song with "I Could Not Ask for More." Now, some of you may remember the 1999 Kevin Costner flick Message in a Bottle, but did you recall that McCain's ballad was one of the contributing songs?
Next we turn to singer/songwriter Melissa Manchester who has had two movie theme songs nominated for Academy Awards. Both "Through the Eyes of Love" from the 1978 ice skating drama Ice Castles and "I'll Never Say Goodbye" from the romantic drama The Promise. Though Manchester's performing career was proving to be very successful on her own, it is hard to deny the world-wide recognition she received from those nominations.
Maureen McGovern has been a significant contributor to many successful soundtracks; and her credits include Oscar-winning "The Morning After" from the blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure. A second Oscar win came for McGovern with "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno. In 1975 music and movie history was made when McGovern became the first singer to have two songs nominated for an Oscar with "We May Never Love Like This Again" and "Wherever Love Takes Me" from Gold. McGovern has undoubtedly made a mark on audiences across the nation and world, but did any of us remember that she was such a great contributor to the magic of Hollywood?
At the end of March, The Barns is hosting one of my personal favorite folksters, Jonathan Edwards. Many of you will surely remember Edwards' anthem for independence and protest "Sunshine."
…You know, "Sunshine go away today, I don't feel much like dancin'..."
What many of you will most likely not remember is that this tune was one of many oldies that had its play time in the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman. Now in this case, it is obvious that Anchorman did not launch Edwards' career, but how many of us were watching the movie and suddenly went "hey! I know that song!" The truth is, we usually watch movies to “watch a movie.” The music is there, we take note that it is setting the mood, but how many viewers go "wow, good call on Jonathan Edwards, I have his CD."So my proposition to you is to see a movie this weekend and think to yourself "Have any of the artists I'm hearing been to the Wolf Trap lately?" The answer just may be "yes!"
Have a great week!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
From a publicity perspective, Wilco has become one of the biggest media darlings since their 2002 release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. They are kind of like the Barack Obama of slightly experimental folk-rock in that it's easy to jump on their bandwagon. But if any of you tune into Post critic Josh "Freedom" DuLac's live discussions on washingtonpost.com every Tuesday at 2, you'll see that he thinks otherwise with the quote,
"Wilco: The most overrated band in America? Or simply the most overrated American band? I don't hate them. I just don't understand the big droolfest they've triggered."
I know this is a forum for general, informal musical discussion, but man I can think of about 100 other bands who would win the blue ribbon for both the most overrated band in America AND the most overrated American band. I'm sure you can too. Chime in with comments if you'd like!
Anyways, I digress. Try to come out tomorrow night for Roomful of Blues, established by the legendary Duke Robbillard in 1967. Of course, he's not with the band these days, but the current lineup delivers quite a show. Starts at 8 - tickets are $22. We'll see you there!
Friday, February 22, 2008
From a purely materialistic and technological standpoint, I definitely think this is a pretty cool invention, but I also can't help but be confused about the guitar's target audience and what sort of measureable impact it is supposed to have on a musician's life. I say this for a few reasons...
1) You'd be hard pressed to find a succesful touring musician who doesn't have multiple members of their road crew on hand to make sure all guitars are properly tuned at all times.
2) Sure, not all touring bands have the payroll to carry a big road crew, and are resigned to tuning their own instruments on stage in between songs. I realize this can take a while, (definitely not five minutes as the guy says in today's video, but maybe 2) which may lead to decreased audience satisfaction. If you are this type of musician, instead of shelling out between $2-3k on a Robot Guitar, why not just invest in a standard $100 tuning pedal? This method allows you to tune silently and quickly with minimal effort and distraction for the audience. CNET writer Matt Rosoff makes the same argument in his blog.
3) Many proponents of the Robot Guitar point to the fact that it allows them to seamlessly transition from one song to the next, without any break in the music. This is great - I agree - but personally, some of my favorite moments at live shows are when the frontman suddenly becomes vulnerable and is forced to try to connect with the audience by telling a story, describing the lyrical content of the next song, or sharing a funny anecdote. This moment usually happens in between songs when they are fooling around with their guitar, trying to get everything perfect for the next tune on the setlist. I'm not saying that all performers do this, but I don't want musicians to have any more of an excuse to just rush through all their songs, collect a paycheck, and head to their next gig. Tune your guitar for 10 minutes if you must, as long as you fill the void with a memorable experience!
4) We're talking about a $2500 instrument here. With this kind of price, how is this attractive to the general public? Plus even if money was no object and I bought a Robot Guitar as a beginning guitarist with aspirations for greatness, isn't it important that I learn the fundamentals of the instrument, which includes learning how to keep it in tune?
Don't get me wrong, I think it's a wildly impressive technological feat, I just struggle with it's practicality.
I've included a recent story on the Robot Guitar from Voice of America TV. Check it out and let me know your thoughts on Gibson's latest release. i'd like to be proven wrong.
All the best for a great weekend,
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I'll be posting again later today so check back...
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
10) "Hello" - Lionel Richie
9) "Everytime you go Away" - Paul Young
8) "It Must Have Been Love" - Roxette (on the Pretty Woman sountrack. Don't ask me how I know that. Everything about this song is so incredibly 80s, I love it. The video features satin bed sheets blowing in the wind while Roxette belts her heart out in an abandoned loft style apartment. Incredible.)
7) "I'm Always in Love" - Wilco (this is an especially personal choice for me. Many of you probably don't know of this song, or this band, but if you're curious about Wilco and like romantic-themed tunes, this is a good place to start even though the song is a little faster than the typical love song. I'd love to see them back at the Filene Center again after their opening slot for Natalie Merchant in 2000)
6) "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" - Poison
5) "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)" - Bryan Adams (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)
4) "Wonderful Tonight" - Eric Clapton
3) "Wicked Game" - Chris Isaac (A frequenter to Wolf Trap's Filene Center stage)
2) "Let's Get It On" - Marvin Gaye (total classic)
1) "God Only Knows" - The Beach Boys (Great friends of Wolf Trap and return performers year after year. Such an amazing song, not just in lyrical and thematic content, but I think one most brilliantly crafted songs in the 2nd half on the 20th century, if not of all time. The three part vocal harmony between Carl Wilson, Brian Wilson, and Bruce Johnston is an absolute work of art. I've chosen a live 1980 performance of this song with Carl on lead vocals as my video of the week. Enjoy, it's phenomenal.)
And like I said, if you feel compelled to chastise me for one or several of my choices, please comment with a list of your own!
Have a great weekend,
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
How many of you were at a Barns show this season when you suddenly began to wonder what shows are coming to the Filene Center this summer? I began pondering this question immediately after the conclusion of the '07 summer season, and it makes my heart race a little bit everytime our programming dept. sends a "confidential booking information" email for the upcoming season announcing a recently booked gig. Having this information is a bit like knowing the ending of a highly anticipated movie before your buddy, or being the first to know out of all your siblings that your parents are taking you to Disney World when you were a kid....which brings me to the topic of today's post.
If you are a frequent patron of the performing arts, whether it be at Wolf Trap, 9:30 club, Kennedy Center, or Nissan Pavilion, you know that membership has its benefits. This "membership" comes in different permutations. The 9:30 club for instance offers advanced tickets to its email blast list subscribers prior to the hard sale (which I love) and many of the bands that play there offer advance tickets to their fan clubs.
Wolf Trap, has a very robust member, donor, and sponsor program. This system is in place, because like many non-profit institutions, we rely heavily on contributed income to support our year-round operations and our mission of providing accessible and affordable arts and education experiences to the broadest possible audience. The giving levels are tiered and customizable, offering increasingly attractive benfits for members who contribute at higher levels. I don't have the space here to go into great detail about all of our fund-raising efforts. My intent, rather, with this brief post is to educate everyone about the advanced ticketing benefit associated with the $125 giving level. This isn't to assume that you aren't already a Wolf Trap member, if so - beautiful. I'd just like give those who aren't in the loop a chance to bask in that exclusive feeling!
Beginning this week, if you become a Wolf Trap member at the $125 level ($125 per year) - among many other benefits - you instantly acquire advanced ticket access to our 40+ summer shows booked thus far, none of which are available yet to the public. This allows you to plan for performances anywhere from three to six months in advance. Our President and CEO, Terre Jones, will announce our summer 2008 season to the public at the National Press Club on March 17th, with the general on-sale scheduled for March 29th giving you more than a month of advanced knowledge and ticket buying opportunities. You would also receive priority ticket handling for the group of 2009 performances that we will likely put on sale to the general public in December of this year (typically select musical theater performances).
So, I'm interested in hopefully sparking a discussion from two different perspectives. First, if you are currently a Wolf Trap member, I'd love to learn a little more about your experience. How long have you been a member? Why did you choose to become a member? etc...
Second, if you are considering membership, what is it that would push you over the edge to make the committment? Advance access to certain shows?, Learning more about Wolf Trap's mission and education programs for underpriveledged children in our area and around the country? etc., Would you prefer to see the schedule before making your pledge so you know ahead of time what the summer will bring?
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of our member programs, you can ask me here on the blog, check out our web site, or give our membership office a call at 703-255-1927. ...and if you can already obviously see the benefit of having early access to all of our summer performances, you can join online anytime.
Hope you're gearing up for a great summer at Wolf Trap.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Sunday ushers in the return of Nashville-based alternative country band Last Train Home, performing in support of their latest record, Last Good Kiss. This quintet has been around for roughly ten years and historically play some of their longest and best shows at D.C. venues, frequently stopping to perform either at Iota in Arlington, the Black Cat in D.C. or Wolf Trap. For those who attended the LTH marathon weekends at Iota in the Spring of 2007, you can relive the experience by purchasing their 100 minute DVD, Last Train Home: Live at Iota.
Considering D.C. is like a second home to LTH, the band will be joined by popular Washington D.C.-based musicians Jon Carroll on keyboard (former member of Starland Vocal Band and Mary Chapin Carpenter Band,) horn-masters Kevin Cordt on trumpet and Chris Watling of The Grandsons and King Teddy on saxophone, Pennsylvania-based Dave Van Allen on steel guitar, and former LTH lead guitarist Steve Wedemeyer who parted ways with the band upon moving to Houston.
To get you in the alt-country spirit for Sunday's performance, check out this very intimate clip of LTH performing "Dogs on the East Side" from their live at Iota DVD. You get lots of face time with frontman Eric Brace and can hear a swing influenced baritone sax opening from Chris Watling. This big-band sound is very indicative of what to expect during their Barns gig.
Have a great weekend,
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
It is reported that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has lobbied the Copyright Royalty Board to lower songwriter royalties on digital downloads, allocating 8% of the wholesale price to record labels down from the previous rate of 13%. Joining record labels in the fight, digital music companies like Apple, Napster, and Yahoo want the rate lowered to half that, at 4%. This statement was included in documentation presented by the NIAA to the Copyright board, "Record companies are suffering a contraction of their business at a time when music publisher revenues and margins have increased markedly. While record companies have been forced to drastically cut costs and employees, music publisher catalogs have increased in value due to steadily rising mechanical royalty rates and alternative revenue streams made possible, but not enjoyed, by record companies."
We will see what develops, but if this is pushed through, we might see a lot of artists emerging in favor of Qtrax, where their royalties might be paid through standard advertising dollars. Also, it seems like this business model (not Qtrax, but the reduced royalty fees) could somehow encourage more people to illegally download songs, given that a smaller percentage will be allocated to the songwriter? But that's just speculation. On the other side of the coin, if digital music companies are only required to pay out 4% to songwriters/publishers, maybe they will cut consumers a break by significantly reducing the cost of each track?
Ok I don't know your feelings on the matter, but I can't wait for Jeff Daniels' next Wolf Trap performance. I caught his 9:30 show at The Barns on Saturday night, and let me tell you, the man is quite the entertainer. I likened his performance to Christine Lavin at The Barns in the Spring of 2007 - both combine folk and blues heavy acoustic guitar instrumentation with disarming, humorous lyrical content drawn from everyday, human situations like driving an RV, teaching your daughter to drive, or getting shot by Clint Eastwood! (ok not so everyday for you and me) He steamrolled through 90 minutes of material that gave his audience substantial insight into the life and mind of a major Hollywood star. His son Ben joined him on stage for an original tune written by the younger of the two Daniels called, "Fake a Smile," which was one of my favorite portions of the show. I couldn't find a MySpace page for him, but watch out for this kid, he's the real thing.
Prior to the show, Jeff sat down to speak with AP radio correspondent Michael Weinfeld, and I luckily had the chance to shoot the breeze with him after the interview. The first thing he said to me was "Have you ever seen the movie RV?" Laughing, and caught slightly off guard not realizing just how casual this man actually is, I inquired about his monstrous RV sitting outside The Barns, assuming that a related story would follow. I said that I hadn't yet seen the movie and he went on to tell me a hilarious story that I probably shouldn't repeat about a mishap along the highways of southern Virginia two days prior. Check in with me later this week.
Friday, February 1, 2008
Luckily, I will have a similar opportunity tomorrow afternoon when AP radio arrives at 3 p.m. to interview Jeff Daniels. Believe me, I'm going to do my best to simply ask him music related questions, with maybe an inquiry or two about his Purple Rose Theater company in Michigan, but it'll be a struggle to not bother him for details about what it was like to play opposite Jim Carrey as Harry Dunn in Dumb and Dumber. Many aren't aware of Mr. Daniels' proficiency and ability as a folk singer/songwriter, but he has quietly and consistently been writing songs for the past 30 years. Since he's already made his fortune on the big screen, Daniels' material goes right to the specific rather than generic which makes for refreshingly unique material that recount particularly humorous moments from his life. For instance he might serenade you with "The Dirty Harry Blues", where he will briefly induct you into the fraternity of actors who have been shot by Clint Eastwood. Daniels explains, “There are two kinds of actors: those who get shot by Clint Eastwood and those who haven’t. This song is about one who has—and how great it is.”
Overall, both his 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. shows are sure to be two of this season's best. So, yep, you guessed it, Jeff Daniels performing "Uptown Train" from his new album Together Again is this week's video of the week. Enjoy, and have a great weekend.